Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

A New Key for Gaetano Donizetti's English Horn Concertino

Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

A New Key for Gaetano Donizetti's English Horn Concertino

Article excerpt

A New Key for Gaetano Donizetti's English Horn Concertino. English horn players the world over have wondered why Donizetti's Concertino for English Horn and Orchestra seems to be written in an unusually high register for the instrument. The standard 1966 Meylan edition is in the key of G major (with the solo part transposed to D.) Meylan based his edition on the G major autograph score in Paris, and he reasoned that the piece was written for an English horn pitched in G. However, as Robert Howe explained in his lecture at the 2014 International Double Reed Society (IDRS) conference, very few, if any, extant English horns in museums are pitched in G.

New evidence suggests that the piece was first performed in the key of F major. Last June, Pedro Diaz made an illuminating discovery in the Donizetti archives in Bologna. He found a set of orchestra parts for the concertino, dated 1816, in the key of G; an 1817 set of parts in F; and one 1816 solo part in C. Since the first performance took place on 19 June 1817, in Bologna, the premiere most likely utilized the 1817 set of parts in F. While Donizetti may have originally conceived the piece in G, he probably transposed the parts into F specifically for the premiere. It is ambiguous whether this was Donizetti's idea or the suggestion of Giovanni Catolfi, the first soloist. As evidenced by the lone solo part in C, Donizetti clearly intended the English horn soloist to play in the written key of C, regardless of the concert pitch of the accompaniment. For those of us accustomed to the solo part written in D, this brings the whole piece down a step and into a more comfortable register. …

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